When you’re eager to help your business earn more through content marketing, but you’re encountering reluctance to give the go ahead with your proposed project, it can be really frustrating. As a marketing professional, you know that with a strong content marketing strategy, your blog posts, videos and podcasts can help to drive massive traffic to your website – which will help to increase customer conversions and in the long term, profits. So why is it so hard to get managers to buy in, and how can we get around this issue? We’ll take a look in this post, as well as looking at some of the ways that we know have definitely worked to get senior managers to buy into content marketing.
Why is it so hard to get senior managers to invest in content marketing?
You would think that it would be as simple as getting your management team to recognise that the investment they need to make in your content marketing strategy, combined with the return on their investment would add up to them saying yes – especially when you can show an impressive ROI. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
A report from Google has shown that positions in marketing – particularly those of Chief Marketing Officers – are growing shorter in tenure, and ever more challenging, especially in smaller businesses. Marketing teams are expected to be some kind of marketing miracle workers – combining branding with advances in data and measurement. This results in poorly defined goals from your senior management team, and misunderstood roles – which are just two of the reasons that senior managers ultimately don’t get what they want to achieve from the marketing team.
They don’t see the value in using professionals
Since we’re all pretty much walking around with a smartphone in our pockets these days, and quite a number of us regularly partake in contributing our opinions on the different types of social media – how difficult is it to create content? Many managers are already thinking that it must be the same as creating content, just the same as your marketing team do – right? There is an increasing perception that almost anyone could be left to create a blog post, or a video for YouTube – or even to host a chat for a podcast. Since it is so simple to get your written content on social media platforms, why on earth should it be any different for more formal writing? And why should it be any different at all for YouTube videos or podcasts?
Unfortunately, as content creators know, it just isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as simply clicking record or tapping out our thoughts. Putting together a well-researched 5000 word article, or creating a really well-edited video that works hard to get traffic and drives conversions simply isn’t the same as what you can do on your smartphone – even if some of us content professionals do work from our smartphones from time to time. Trying to convince your senior management team of that though? Well, that’s a whole other ball game.
Some of the managers that you will be trying to win over may even be blogging or vlogging themselves, and their personal content is getting loads of shares on LinkedIn. And let’s face it, if they can do it – well, surely it can’t be that hard, can it? But as we all know, there are so many other aspects at play when it comes to writing for your company website or blog. You’re thinking about writing for your customers, considering SEO as well as ensuring your references and links are suitable to be sure your content is suitable to meet the Google EAT (expertise, authority and trustworthiness) guidelines.
If you’re working in the marketing team and your managers know that generally your results are strong – then it is likely that you’ll be able to talk to them frankly about the brand voice and the difference between writing a personal blog and a content marketing blog post designed to draw customers to your website. If they are still adamant that it isn’t that hard, then one way to illustrate just how hard it is, could be to offer them the opportunity to write a guest post. Give them the same sort of brief that you get, and then after a certain amount of time, give them the technical feedback on their post. Show them comparisons with your regular SEO oriented posts, with data showing traffic and click-throughs – and with a bit of luck, then they might finally get that it isn’t quite as simple as they think it is.
They don’t understand what is really required
As we were just saying – how hard can it be to tap out a blog article? Like really, how hard could it possibly be? Most of us have sat down at some point and written an essay, even if it was a really long time ago at school, so it can’t be that hard – can it? Well, those of us who write – whether it is blog posts, news articles, or writing anything else for a living – well, we know just how hard it can be, especially if you can’t get into the flow.
The ability to create a great blog post doesn’t just take time, effort and research, it takes isolation, usually peace and quiet and copious amounts of tea or coffee, depending on what your poison is. Getting away from the distractions of people who think that, just because we’re just typing, they can interrupt us at any given moment is key.
(Side note: PLEASE don’t interrupt your writer if they look like they could be in full flow!)
But because very often, what we do and the sheer amount of work that is really required to create a fantastic blog post doesn’t get seen by our manager, let alone the senior management team! And so, the mystery remains – and they remain blissfully unaware of what their content creators are really doing.
The other problem is that when your content creator (whether they are a writer, video editor or podcast editor) is in the office (probably with their noise cancelling headphones on) and they have finally managed to block out the distractions and they’re actually succeeding in typing up a storm – well, it doesn’t look too hard to do. That’s why it might not seem like much of a problem to interrupt them here and there – because unfortunately, from the outside, it doesn’t look all that much different to anyone who is just replying to emails. But because it doesn’t seem that different to anything that anyone else in the office is doing, it brings us back to our original question – how hard can it be to create a blog post?
If you’re encountering this problem, then spending a bit of time to map your workflows in detail, and making them available to your team (and your managers) can help you to get the space, and the backing that you need to get the space you need too.
They don’t understand why content is valuable
The roots of content marketing started in 1985 when John Deere (yes, the tractor manufacturer) started The Furrow – essentially, a magazine that the company created to connect the brand with potential customers. Not long after that, Michelin (the tyre company) started The Michelin Guide. This was a way for them to encourage people to travel – which in the long term, meant they would sell more tyres. Considering the brand today is worth $17.4 billion, we’d say that strategy worked!
Getting back to today though – well, we don’t need to tell you why content marketing is so incredibly valuable! When you’re looking for your evidence, head to this post, because you’re going to want to include the sort of statistics that we talked about in there – and make sure you have backed up every point you make about content marketing with statistics as far as you can.
They have no idea what the return on investment can really be
Many people – including senior managers – don’t understand how, or why creating content that isn’t directly pitching your products or services to your customers works. They don’t know that it isn’t just about creating the sales, and that content marketing is about a much longer game, but that the long game has an end result which of course, ends up with a dramatic increase in those sales.
The thing with content marketing is this: it isn’t always easy to show how a thought leadership piece, or a seemingly completely unrelated blog post (take, for example, our font hacks for Instagram Stories post) can provide measurable value to the business. If you’re working on increasing brand awareness, or providing more value for your customers to encourage repeat business, then content marketing isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as “this piece created XX number of sales”. And that can be a major problem, because managers like to be able to see a direct correlation from one thing to the other.
What does that mean for content creators then? Well, in simple terms, it is that we simply need to be able to quantify our success better, and to be our own biggest fans when we create spectacular work. Being able to report detailed metrics such as:
- The exact number of views their post got
- The length of time each reader spent on the post
- How many shares the post got on social media
- Use tools like UTM links to track the performance of the calls to action in the post, which can help measure how many people clicked through and acted
These metrics are real, useable, understandable and manipulatable data, and management teams can use them much better over time to understand what is going on. Not only that though, they can help to explain how content provides a bigger return on investment over the longer term – which is absolutely key to getting people to buy in.
They don’t realise that a content strategy isn’t going to be an overnight success
Unfortunately for us writers, it is the case that a great content marketing blog post published today does not equate to dramatically increased profits tomorrow. But many people in executive teams still believe that the two main reasons to create marketing assets is to promote the company, and to sell products, and because of that, they’re looking for that near-instant pay-off.
As you probably already know (if you’re thinking about trying to get your management team to buy in) – content marketing is about understanding your target customers, and how your products and services solve problems. Once you know how you help your customers to solve their problems, sharing the expertise from your team in your content marketing will draw your customers to you when they find that your content helps them.
Your customers will remember the time they found your blog post and it aided their understanding in fixing an issue. Then, when they find that they have a need for something you sell, or provide, they are much more likely to think of your business in a positive manner – simply because your content demonstrated that you know what you’re talking about. You’ve already proven that your business has the information that they need.
Content marketing then, is about that crucial first layer of trust that customers need to convert to paying customers. The biggest problem with content marketing is that this process isn’t a quick one – and it could be months, or even years, before they approach your business for what they need, and to become a paying customer.
While you’re trying to convince your team to buy into your content marketing strategy, you shouldn’t forget that your content marketing strategies can be applied to your senior managers. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t keep things concise with them (in fact, you absolutely should where you can, since most managers don’t have time, or patience to deal with waffle!) but keep in mind that your management team are your audience too. You can use your content marketing skills to get them to buy in – so drip-feed them the information that they need to help them to understand how content marketing will not only help solve the problems of your customers, but also the problem of getting the customers you need to engage with your business too.
Convincing other team members
It isn’t just the management team that you have to convince to buy into a content marketing strategy, is it? Often we hear about other members of the team who think content marketing is at best, a bit pointless, and at worst, a complete waste of time. Most of your marketing team are likely to be on board – and indeed, some of them are likely to have tried to have convinced others to buy into a content marketing programme. It’s the other team members who don’t understand, or don’t see the benefit of content marketing that could cause you a hassle.
Many of the sales team will want your work to draw leads in quickly and efficiently – but as you already know, the issue here is that content marketing isn’t a quick win strategy. If (like many companies) your company has a quick turnover of staff in the sales team, you might struggle to convince them that content marketing is the right thing for them right now, or in the long term. With that in mind, to build a successful content marketing strategy, you might need to reach some kind of compromise whereupon you work on different plans that can provide short-term gains alongside your content strategy.
What do senior managers need to buy in?
If marketing teams are so poorly understood then, we need to help senior managers to understand what it is that we really do. Although it might seem like they want you to get blood out of a stone, or to sign your soul away – they don’t really. They just need the really solid, hard evidence, backed up by data that your plan is going to work, alongside how you can use automation to make everything a bit simpler, and to run a little bit more smoothly.
When you’re pitching to them to try and get them on board with content marketing, there are a few things that you can give them upfront to help them be more open to the idea. Let’s take a look at the things you can do to help encourage your managers in the direction of saying yes to your proposal.
A trial period
It is almost impossible to convince a manager to go ahead with anything to start with, especially where costs are involved – even if you give them all the statistical evidence that proves that content marketing is a good idea! Although giving them the statistics might be one way to make them more open to the idea of content marketing, since they won’t have seen it in action in their business, that might mean that you need to wean them onto the idea a bit more gently.
Given that you already know well content marketing can work for your business, rather than trying to convince your management teams to take the plunge straight away, suggest a trial period to get started. Propose a time frame for your trial to run (six months is a pretty reasonable amount of time to start to see results) and establish the objectives you want to achieve.
You’ll need to approach the relevant members of the management team with the right information. We’re talking about who your content marketing is designed for, what it can help your business to achieve, the reasons why you should go ahead and so on. Being clear about everything before you even get started will help remove some of the mystery, and the suggestion of a trial period is likely to be the incentive they need to say yes. Part of that is also going to be because they will know they can simply cancel the content marketing programme if they don’t see the benefit to the business – but if you’re doing your job right, you’ll be seeing the results within that time scale anyway.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say – and so once they start to see the results that you have suggested you might achieve, you are almost certainly going to get the go ahead to continue.
A clear explanation why businesses need content marketing
We’re sure you have already got to grips with why content marketing is a good idea, and we probably don’t need to explain it to you! When you’re pitching to your senior management team though, the main points that we think you should be highlighting about why businesses should use content marketing include:
- It helps to keep your leads and prospects informed about your most recent products, services and special offers
- It helps to increase sales and other measurements of success
- It can actually help your team save on costs
- It can help to keep your customers to remain engaged with your brand
- It can encourage engagement with new members of your target audience
- It can showcase your products and services
- It helps to build a community between your customers and followers of your brand
There are plenty of other reasons that you might decide to show your senior managers why content marketing works in your industry – this all very much depends on your niche. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all checklist – so if something else works for your industry, slot it in!
An explanation about how content marketing helps businesses connect with consumers
As this report from Google shows, customers matter more than ever. Great content can help you to generate leads – up to three times more leads than traditional marketing. Although content marketing is time intensive, and can take a while to see serious results, it is well worth investing – since 81% of marketers found their traffic was increased by investing just 6 hours per week in their social media content. And as we’re all aware, increasing repeat custom is way more valuable than trying to gain new custom – 61% of SMBs say that half of their revenue is coming from repeat customers, and not only that – a loyal customer is likely to be worth around 10 times as much as their original purchase.
Strengthening your relationship with your existing customers is essential then, to keep your profits increasing. Once your lead becomes a converting customer – that isn’t where it ends, by any means, and content that continues to provide value to your customer base will continue to increase the loyalty to your brand, and to continue to strengthen your relationships with your customers.
As your customers become repeat customers, they will return and make more purchases, and they are more likely to become an ambassador for your brand – which means they are more likely to share your content, and encourage their social media followers to like and follow you. All of this leads to increased brand awareness and in turn, a much bigger chance of more conversions and bigger overall profits.
There’s nothing that senior managers love more than to get their eyes on some serious data. And it has never been easier to find the exact data you need for the point you want to make! When you’re starting your search, you can find more than 85 statistics to help support your statements about content marketing in our post here. If these stats don’t impress your senior management team, we’re not sure what will!
While you’re thinking about data, don’t forget to talk about the KPIs that you will set, and how you will measure the success of the programme. This will be the key to ensuring that your content marketing strategy will be here to stay at the end of your trial period. It will show the exact correlation between the work that has been done and the increase in customers visiting your website, converting and the subsequent increase in profits.
Depending on the goals of your business, some of the KPIs that you might suggest working with include:
- Traffic to your website
- Increasing social media followers
- Subscription sign-ups
- Social media mentions and likes
- Shopping cart abandonment
- Purchases by existing customers
- Feedback and reviews
- Engagement such as likes, shares, followers, mentions and backlinks
While these are some of the most popular KPI metrics that businesses use, they aren’t always the right fit for every business. You’ll need to find the right ones to fit, and be prepared to negotiate with what your managers want to use as a measure of success.
Demonstrate how content marketing help achieve the wider business goals
Of course, the goal of almost every business is to increase revenue. But this isn’t the only thing that your bosses will want to achieve. You’ll be able to show an increase in brand awareness, and demonstrate to your customers – both existing and prospective – that your business is an authority in the industry, through your thought leadership pieces.
But that’s not all. Content marketing can assist your sales team by increasing the number of sales leads, and can dramatically help to improve the conversion rate of those customers. In addition to all that, you’ll be able to demonstrate increased customer retention – which has the potential to drive down marketing costs, since it is widely acknowledged that it costs less to retain existing customers than to engage with new ones.
Show examples of where it works
Once you’ve demonstrated how content marketing can help you to reach your goals, give them the evidence from other businesses that are showing incredible return on their investment in their content marketing. If you can find examples from within your industry then that is fantastic, but your evidence doesn’t need to be from businesses that are exactly the same as your own. Case studies from other industries can show exactly what you need – and there are plenty that are published online, so you’re unlikely to need to hunt too hard!
For you to talk about costs
This bit might evoke a little bit of fear – after all, most managers don’t want to have to spend extra money, and they’re likely to shy away from anything that is going to cost them anything. But being upfront, and realistic about how much your proposed content marketing programme is going to cost will help them to buy in. Especially when you follow up with our next point:
That you will know the expected return on investment
You might need to talk about costs, but you can seriously offset those concerns by talking a different kind of money – the money that will flow in as a result of your content marketing. You have to spend money to make money is a phrase that most people in business are aware of – and that is because it is true!
By demonstrating exactly how much money they can make from spending on content marketing, you’re almost certain to get them learning towards agreeing to your project – in principle, and for a short-term trial project at least.
For you to have complete confidence in your strategy
This can be easier said than done when you’re approaching senior members of your company and asking for their time to consider something they might not believe in. The first step in being confident before a big presentation? Being prepared. The old cliché that “perfect preparation prevents poor performance” is wheeled out so often for very good reason!
However you decide to pitch your ideas – be it with a tried and tested PowerPoint presentation, something a bit flashier with Prezi or you use a different way to present entirely, these are the main points you should know before you enter the meeting:
- The reasons that your business should create a content marketing strategy
- The trial period that would suit your business best
- The data that illustrates why they should buy in – such as the sort of increase in traffic you expect, or the conversions that are possible
- How the content strategy can work for your business
- The money situation – how much it will cost, and the expected return on investment
- How to counter the most likely objections
- How you will measure the success of the content strategy
Don’t just know these points: you need to know them inside out, and believe in them! Practice your pitch ahead of the big day, and be passionate about your ideas! After all, if you’re not excited about the prospect of bringing extra business to your company, then why should your management team buy in?
For you to be prepared for the objections
You will have to be ready for some objections to your proposal – some managers simply won’t give in without a fight! Two of the biggest sticking points are going to be that funds aren’t available, and that the industry simply isn’t interesting enough for content marketing to work. Let’s take a look at how you can counter both of these arguments.
“We don’t have funds available”
This is the reason why we’ve advised that you talk about costs as well as the expected return on investment. By explaining exactly how much it will cost your business to implement, as well as the amount of money that your content marketing will deliver, with a bit of luck, you won’t have to deal with this type of objection. If you do run into this issue, and you can’t get around it, then here are some points that you can counter their objections with.
You can repurpose content
When you’re creating a piece of content – in whatever format you choose – you don’t have to create it once and then simply leave it be. One blog post can become several social media posts, or it can feed into a video that can be uploaded to YouTube, and it can also inform future blog posts. Where you’re creating a post that details research, or industry statistics, these can be widely referred to again, which means it is quicker and easier to produce new posts from this data.
Team members can feed into the process
Your team might not be made up of professional writers, but your existing team members are almost certainly going to be able to assist you with your content marketing. If you’re lucky enough to have just one hobbyist writer on your team, then it is pretty likely that they will be happy to have the opportunity to contribute!
Even if the bulk of your team aren’t interested in, or don’t have the talent to write a blog post for you, then they can still contribute. Your team know the questions that your customers have day in, day out, and they know the most common problems that your customers encounter. This can be really valuable to inform your content, and you can even use them as industry experts in your posts, videos or on podcast episodes. You might think about doing an interview with them, or even just a question and answer session that your customers might be interested in.
You don’t have to use team members
Although we’re suggesting that your team can take part in the content marketing process, that might not be possible for every business. If your team are already stretched as it is, you can be certain that the management team won’t want to direct team resources to content marketing. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to go ahead – you might just need to negotiate how you can outsource this task.
If this is the case, although outsourcing could be an expense to the company, you’ll be working with professional writers, film makers or podcast recorders who know the exact process of how to research a piece, and how to put it together and how to optimise it for SEO. That means the expense is likely to return an even better result than your team could give alone – meaning that your team get to focus on what they do best, and your content creators can handle your content creation for you.
“The industry isn’t interesting enough”
There are opportunities for content marketing in almost every industry – you just have to identify them. Then once you have, you can spell them out clearly for your management team, to help them to understand how content marketing can make your industry even more appealing to your customers.
Before you head into your proposal meeting, it is well worth your time to create a list of suggested posts that you could use in your strategy, to offset this suggestion. Find examples of the sort of posts you could create, and include them in your presentation, or have links available to examples so that you are ready to illustrate your point.
“You will just be informing our competition”
Yeah, maybe your competition will read your post. But so what? You’re probably keeping an eye on what they’re doing on their website too, after all. And if they start following your lead and they implement their own content strategy (or they pretty much start creating content that is – shall we say ‘heavily influenced’ by yours) then you know you’re onto a winning streak. Your customers know who your competition are, because it is pretty easy to find that out these days – and they will consider the quality of the content, as well as the date that you both published your posts.
There’s nothing to stop your management team putting the kibosh on you writing about certain topics that your business does – especially if your industry is pretty small. But the beauty of content marketing is that there are so many other things you can write about that keep your customers engaged without needing to give your company’s trade secrets away! Getting more traffic to your posts will add up to more customers converting – which adds up to bigger profits, as you know.
Pointers for presentations
Here are a few key points to remember when you’re making your pitch to get content marketing buy-in – and if you’re already involved in marketing, you’re probably already aware of these, but it is nearly always worth refreshing your memory!
- Personalise your presentation – make it relevant to your industry
- Provide the right information, but be entertaining too
- Give your audience the right information – show them facts and figures, and competitor analysis
- Show your audience a clearly thought out plan
- Demonstrate that you have mapped out the potential returns for the project
Although we’ve given you a few pointers here, there is no right or wrong way to get your presentation, and your pitch to your senior management team right. We can’t advise for every single industry, unfortunately, so we’ll trust that you know best for the niche that your business is in – whether you go for a completely off the wall pitch, or something way more traditional.
Although we’ve given you some guidance on how to win your managers over here, you may still encounter resistance to your proposal. Making use of data is likely to be one of the biggest things you can do to convince those who are still reluctant – especially your cost and return on investment data. That means doing your homework thoroughly, and being prepared for as many objections to your proposal as possible. We’ve given you a few ideas about the sort of objections that you might get – but each industry has their own challenges when it comes to getting content marketing buy in.
Finally though, the biggest piece of advice we can give you? Know your stuff and be confident. You are in the fortunate position that you already know that content marketing works. If your strategy is sound, all you really have to do is get your management to see that and you’ll be set – and so confidence is everything you need to project.
If you’re still struggling to get buy-in from your managers, get in touch – we’re an experienced team and we’re happy to help you with your content marketing strategy, and to get your managers to see the value of buying in.
Aires Loutsaris is a content marketing specialist working with some of the world’s biggest VC funded startups and eCommerce companies. He has 15 years of experience in organic search optimisation and content writing with over 2500 students enrolled in his Udemy SEO course. An ex-head of two award-winning agencies, he has lectured at the University of the Arts, London College of Fashion on content marketing and has consulted for all three of the Universities he studied at: The Open University, The University of Hull and Kings College University of London. Feel free to connect with Aires on LinkedIn or Facebook.
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